Jeremy Jepson, musical director for Stamford Choral Society and St Peter's Singers, knows 'there is a choir out there for everyone'
If the only time you sing is to join in with a spot of Auld Lang Syne, then why not make singing your resolution for 2022?
We were told last year by broadcaster and former doctor Michael Mosley that this simple activity is a mood-booster, helping to release the ‘happy hormones’ dopamine and endorphins, which give a natural high.
And backing that view is musical director Jeremy Jepson, who has injected enthusiasm into singing across the area through his work with choirs and schools.
According to Jeremy, there is no such thing as someone who can’t sing, and there is certainly a “choir out there for everybody”.
In fact, he runs three of them locally.
“Stamford Choral Society, which has about 60 members, is open to everybody,” he said.
“But don’t just go along for a week - go for three or four weeks. Give it a chance.
“I joined a choir when I was 14 because my dad told me I should, and after the first week I wasn’t at all convinced. After three weeks I was hooked.
“There is a progression with choirs, and by going for a few weeks you see how the performance of a song grows into something which is greater than the sum of its parts.
“It all makes sense when you see and hear the final result, and sing the pieces you have been practising with a full orchestra.”
Stamford Choral Society meets in Stamford Methodist Church at Barn Hill on Tuesday evenings. It is open to people who want to come along to find out if singing with others is the spirit-lifter they are looking for.
While Jeremy loves the inclusivity of the Stamford group, he is also musical director for the St Peter’s Singers, a smaller and more selective choir based at Peterborough Cathedral.
In many ways, St Peter’s Singers provide something for those training their voices to aspire to - although he is the first to say nobody should listen to a good choir and be daunted.
Church choirs and other singing groups - there are plenty to be found in the Stamford, Rutland and Bourne areas - can offer a place to start singing in public that can feel more comfortable, before deciding to join a group that sells tickets for its performances, Jeremy explained.
He should know - he also leads the choir at All Saints’ Church in Stamford.
“Church choirs tend to offer free membership and they don’t require people to be Christians to join,” he said.
“We have people who are non-believers at All Saints - we are there to provide a service for the church, and the great thing about singing in a church is that you get to perform before an audience every week.
“This provides members with new music and new challenges, which is a bit like being in a football team. You get your 90 minutes on the pitch each week.”
As well as being a mood-lightening activity that brings people together to socialise, singing in a choir is also a bit of a workout.
“People who sing become vocal athletes,” said Jeremy, who became a musical director at the age of 14.
“I’ve seen people join a choir who might struggle to sing a phrase in one breath, but with practice the amount they can sing between breaths becomes longer and longer.
“This sort of control, of breathing and voice, brings confidence. It develops lung capacity and can help with breathing problems.”
Jeremy is also convinced those who sing together tend to leave their worries at the door when they arrive at a rehearsal or a concert.
“Singing is something that engages your mind and enlivens your spirit,” he explained.
“There is nothing but positivity when it comes to singing in a choir.”
During the pandemic singing was, at first, discouraged - except humming ‘Happy Birthday’ while carrying out hand-washing.
Choir numbers have fallen, with Stamford Choral Society losing about 40 per cent of members over the lockdowns. But it, like many groups, is making a recovery and has a current, healthy base of 60 members.
Jeremy is unsurprised that singing over Zoom wasn’t for everyone. Choir members joined on laptops, tablets and phones and, with their microphones on mute, sang their hearts out at home.
Also at home, it was up to Jeremy, unable to hear a note of singing, to watch out for body language and mouth movements which might offer clues as to what advice could be offered.
Now, back rehearsing at the spacious Trinity Methodist Church in Barn Hill, the windows are open and people are given the opportunity to socially distance or even wear face coverings, but they can at least hear one another and appreciate the sound of voices in harmony.
- Find out more about Stamford Choral Society... Via the website www.stamfordchoral.co.uk or email email@example.com. Membership is £40 per term, which includes two hours of professional tuition each week, and a concert.
- Find out more about the St Peter's Singers... Via the website www.stpetersingers.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership is £45 per term, which include weekly rehearsals during term time, and three or four events.
- Find out more about the Stamford Singers... Open rehearsals take place on Wednesday, January 12, and Wednesday, January 19, 7.45pm to 9.30pm at the Trinity Methodist Church in Barn Hill. Visit www.stamfordsingers.org for details.